CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 16. . . . April 11, 2003
If Polly McDougall and Kyle Clay did not live in the same apartment building and had not known each other since kindergarten, they would have little in common.
It is their shared interest in mailing ballots that leads the sleuths to this fourth installment in the "Polly McDoodle Mystery Series." This time, she and Kyle are in grade seven, no longer the oldest in elementary school but rather the youngest in a fine arts junior/senior high. Their anxieties and insecurities come out loud and clear in this sequel. Polly is struggling with the loss of her brother Shawn - her only sibling - who is playing hockey in Regina for a year. Her best friend has moved away, and Isabel, her beloved mentor, is spending three months in an artists' commune in Mexico. Her friendship with Mandy, a classmate and new tenant in the apartment complex, is stretched to the limits when she realizes that Mandy's eating disorder is a symptom of her missionary parents' absence, and Polly is desperate to help her. These are all serious problems for a young girl, and Woodbury does not minimize them.
In her upbringing and support system, Polly is well-grounded, and readers can learn some valuable lessons from this. Tempers might flare between Kyle and Polly, but any problems are resolved quickly and amiably. The students are taken seriously in their investigative work by the teachers, the police and the postal inspectors who try to track down the mail thefts. They are passionate about their art of choice; Polly uses her drawing skills not only to reconstruct scenes from the crime but also as a release from the tensions of her life. Adults are also there to listen and offer a mature perspective, as in the following:
As witty as Polly's nickname "McDoodle" is initially, the numerous tags that Woodbury gives Polly to explain her moods can grow tedious after awhile: Perplexed and Puzzled McDoodle, Languid and Lonely McDoodle, Deserted and Despairing McDoodle, the Mentally Confused and Emotionally Complex McDoodle ....
Despite all the side plots in this novel, this is still a mystery that young readers will enjoy solving along with Polly and Kyle. It is also heartening to read about kids who are passionate about something - their art, their neighbourhood, their environment and their friendships. And Polly cares enough to take risks and want to make a difference:
Although the book's students are entering their adolescent years, like the rest of the series, this one will still appeal most to young readers. The cover artwork by Ward Schell and the trade paperback format will also help attract pre-teens.
Carole Marion is a Youth Librarian with Calgary Public Library and had been working with young readers and their caregivers for twenty years..
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.